In today’s global, mobile landscape business processes have become extensive and complex, reaching all kinds of mobile systems, data, content sources and devices. Businesses in this environment demand a coordinated way to connect all of these varied components and extend them to new places. As a result, what were once isolated business processes are now being united into workflow, a new category that is shaping the way businesses get everyday work done.
Traditional business process management (BPM) has been around for a long time and has done a lot of good, but only for a limited number of people and a limited number of processes. We tend to think of BPM as big, and as requiring big amounts of money, time and long-running projects to make it work. As such, it is usually reserved for elaborate, all-encompassing processes—like the fine china you only take out of the cabinet when entertaining guests. By focusing only on the big, mission-critical business processes, BPM inherently leaves a lot of processes on the table.
With so many moving parts, businesses today cannot afford to leave any process behind. Workflow automation is the response to that conundrum, focusing on quick and easy automation of every process, from the everyday to the elaborate. As we’ve entered an age of information and data, especially the huge increase in unstructured data—documents, records, video and even social feeds and notifications—workflow automation helps businesses keep up by harnessing all of that content and integrating it back into their everyday tasks. This workflow automation market is quickly taking hold, projected to reach $5.53 billion by 2019.
As organizations face a much greater workload and much greater need to streamline tasks, it’s just as critical to tackle the everyday processes as it is the elaborate, high-profile processes. Workflow automation takes the approach that every process matters, even the ones that are considered simple or too small to automate—e.g., leave requests, expense and document approvals, IT help desk requests—because there’s gold in those everyday processes. With day-to-day work pulling content from all over the place, those little processes add up to a huge opportunity to improve productivity. Automating multiple everyday processes can save your organization a massive amount of time and resources.
Streamlining everyday processes also has a much greater chance of success. Long-running BPM projects or complex processes are often left uncompleted because business conditions change before the effort is finished. In contrast, everyday processes can be managed in bite-sized chunks, and can be evolved on an iterative basis as the environment changes. They are also the processes that most get in the way, that have a lot of participants and that produce a lot of mistakes, making them prime candidates to automate. But with IT pulled in so many directions, the only way these everyday processes will get addressed is by expanding the number of people who can automate them.
That’s where workflow automation steps in. By providing the tools to automate any business process quickly and easily, it’s enabling everyone, from the IT pro to the everyday business user, to take solution-building into their own hands. It unites all of an organization’s systems, content and data to ensure that users have exactly what they need exactly when they need it. With the power in the hands of those closest to the process, organizations can reduce the IT burden and free themselves up to focus on the bigger picture—and the bottom line.
Workflow automation also takes mobility a step further by being wherever the user is. In today’s business climate, thinking that mobile refers simply to an app that runs on a phone misses the point; mobile means getting the work to the user, wherever he or she may be. That might mean a mobile phone app, but it also might mean plugging in seamlessly to email, text messages or social media channels, or even interacting with partners and customers as easily as one does with employees. It means work without boundaries, better engagement and greater efficiency across an entire organization.
Nowadays, little in business does not involve a process. But with so many lines of business within organizations all seeking ways to streamline tasks, IT cannot keep up without getting crushed under the weight of an ever-increasing backlog. To keep up with changing business conditions, organizations must address the emerging need to enable more people to build more solutions. Workflow automation rises to that challenge, arming everyday users with the tools to take it upon themselves to get work done and bring it to new people, places and devices.
About the Author: Mike Fitzmaurice is the vice president of workflow technology for workflow automation company Nintex, where he is responsible for product direction, evangelism, technical marketing and technical business strategy. He previously spent more than 10 years at Microsoft (News - Alert), the majority of that time working on the SharePoint team in roles including developer evangelism, competitive strategy, enterprise consulting, user education, product marketing and technical event planning. Before joining Microsoft, Fitzmaurice served as director of research and development at Advanced Paradigms Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based Microsoft Solution Provider Partner, as well as held a five-year tenure as IT director of the National Association of Broadcasters.